Monday, September 28, 2009

(empo-tymshft) In praise of HyperCard

This is probably no surprise to you, but I have hardly any formal programming experience. Sure, I wrote some programs in junior high, high school, and college, but I've hardly ever been paid to program. The one exception? In one of my former jobs, I authored a HyperCard stack.

If the word HyperCard means nothing to you, I strongly encourage you to read this post that talks about the history of HyperCard. Even if you avoid Macintosh computers at all costs, HyperCard introduced many ideas into the popular consciousness.

HyperCard was a tool for making tools – Mac users could use Hypercard to build their own mini-programs to balance their taxes, manage sports statistics, make music – all kinds of individualized software that would be useful (or fun) for individual users. These little programs were called stacks, and were built as a system of cards that could be hyperlinked together. Building a HyperCard stack was remarkably easy, and the application quickly developed a devoted following.

HyperCard was the brain child of Bill Atkinson, one of Apple’s earliest employees, and the software engineer responsible for (among other things) the drop-down menu, the selection tool, and tabbed navigation. Bill played a big role in making the Mac what the Mac was – a personal computer that made the whole process of computing easy for the general public. HyperCard represented perhaps the bravest part of this ‘computing for the people’ philosophy, as it enabled users to go past the pre-built software that came on the machines, and to program and build software of their own.

The post then goes on to say:

HyperCard was the first real hyper-media program, paving the way for the web, and everything that came with it. It was used by thousands of people, and by most accounts, seemed to have been a fairly successful piece of software.

The software, however, was pretty much dead by the mid-1990s, but many of the ideas in HyperCard lived on as the World Wide Web took off, and people like me ended up writing blog posts like this that linked to other sources.

Powerful stuff.
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